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10 Things You May Not Know About Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.: Unearthing the Lesser-Known

The portrait of Dr Martin Luther King, Jr carved from white stone at the memorial in his name stands with arms crossed looking out into bright blue sky.
Washington, DC., portrait of Dr Martin Luther King, Jr carved from white stone

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., a beacon of the Civil Rights Movement, is often celebrated for his iconic roles and speeches. However, there's much more to his story than what is commonly known. Here are ten lesser-known facts and causes championed by Dr. King:

1. Advocated for Universal Basic Income: King advocated for a universal basic income, a concept gaining traction today. He believed that a guaranteed income would help eradicate poverty, providing economic security to all. Different studies are now showing that to be the case.

2. Nuclear Disarmament: Dr. King voiced strong opposition to the proliferation of nuclear weapons. He saw nuclear disarmament as crucial to global peace and advocated to end the arms race between superpowers.

3. Economic Justice Through the Poor People's Campaign: King’s last major initiative, the Poor People's Campaign, was a revolutionary step towards addressing economic inequality and advocating for people of all races.

4. Opposition to the Vietnam War: King’s criticism of the Vietnam War marked a significant expansion of his activism into international affairs despite substantial criticism.

5. Support for Striking Workers in Memphis: King's involvement with the Memphis sanitation workers' strike underscored his belief in the dignity of labor and the importance of economic rights in the civil rights movement.

6. Global Vision for Peace and Anti-Colonialism: King's anti-colonial stance and support for newly independent African and Asian nations demonstrated his commitment to global justice and freedom. His vision was not as parochial as often presented.

7. Influences Beyond Christianity: While deeply rooted in Christian beliefs, King was profoundly influenced by Mahatma Gandhi's principles of nonviolent resistance.

8. Under FBI Surveillance: King was subject to intense surveillance and harassment by the FBI, a testament to the perceived threat he posed to the status quo.

9. Nobel Prize and Financial Generosity: Upon receiving the Nobel Peace Prize, King donated all the prize money to the civil rights movement, reflecting his selfless commitment to the cause.

10. A Legacy "Beyond the ‘Dream:" King's "I Have a Dream" speech is iconic, but it's just one part of his vast, transformative vision for America and the world.

And a couple of fun factoids:

  1. Born in Atlanta on Jan. 15, 1929, Martin Luther King Jr.s original name was Michael. His father, Martin Luther King Sr., a pastor at the Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta, was named Michael. He changed his and his son’s name to “Martin Luther” after being inspired by the story of the monk Martin Luther’s nailing his 95 Theses to the door of the Wittenberg Castle church, igniting the Protestant Reformation.

  2. A prodigy, King skipped at least two grades and went to college at 15, graduating from Booker T. Washington High School in Atlanta before attending Morehouse College, a historically Black men’s school also attended by his father and grandfather. He finished college at 19 and then went to seminary school.

  3. Later known as a great orator, MLK got a C in public speaking while training to be a minister.

  4. When drafting his speech for the March on Washington based on the Bible, the Declaration of Independence, and the words of William Shakespeare, King didn't include the famous refrain: “I have a dream...” Reportedly, Mahalia Jackson, in the audience near the stage, called out, “Tell them about the dream, Martin."

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